Beware the Whale Probe!
BQB here with a review of this fine flick.
3.5 readers. Let me lay the following contradictory statements on you:
#1 – Plot-wise, this should have been the dumbest, shittiest movie ever made that by all rights, should have murdered the franchise.
#2 – It’s pretty awesome and I think most fans would agree, it’s the second best of the 6 films starring the OG Shatner and friends cast, and a very close almost photo finish with Khan at that.
OK. The plot.
A big stupid looking probe that looks like a giant turd appears over Earth. It emits what sounds like a whale call. When it receives no response, it plays the call louder, causing ecological devastation. The tides rise, waves bash the continents, all incoming ships are warned that the earth is screwed so they should fly elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Capt. Kirk and crew are living in exile on Vulcan, having become wanted fugitives for disobeying Starfleet orders and stealing the Enterprise and (SPOILER ALERT) blowing it the eff up so as to gank the dastardly Klingons who invaded the ship sans permission.
Brave souls that they are, they decide to return to earth, stand trial and accept the consequences of their actions. Frankly, this is stupid and I would have just stayed on Vulcan but I guess this is why I’m not Starfleet material and also the movie needs to happen.
While returning to Earth in a stolen Klingon Bird of Prey ship no less, the crew receive the distress call. Spock, big brained mofo that he is, theorizes that the signal sounds like whale calls. Apparently, some species out there in the universe, perhaps space whales, really gives a lot of shits about earth whales, to the point they sent a giant probe to check on them. Your goal, noble reader, should be to find someone who loves you as much as the space whales who sent this probe love earth whales.
Ah but alas, whales are extinct by the 2300s when the film takes place. The movie does become one great big advertisement for environmentalism and ecological conversation but it is done in an entertaining way.
Anyway, the probe needs to hear some mother humping whale calls or else it is going to continue to eff up Earth’s shit. So, Kirk and crew perform a “slingshot maneuver” which means they fly the ship really, really fast and really, really close to the sun and if they are lucky, they don’t get burned up as they travel back in time.
At no time is there any recognition of how this slingshot move is pretty awesome in and of itself and how there should be an entire movie devoted just to it. There is very little attempt at an explanation as to how travel around the sun leads to time travel and I know there is no explanation because it can’t be done yet most of this things in this franchise cant be done but that doesn’t stop the crew from offering the audience a BS explanation for purposes of nerd placation.
SIDENOTE: I recall the crew has time traveled before in the original series. I will have to look up whether travel around the sun at fast speed was involved.
OK. The crew winds up in 1986 San Francisco. They go on a mission to locate a male and a female whale and bring them back to the 2300s so the whales will fornicate and repopulate the seas with whales so the whales will respond to the whale probe and the probe will be happy the whales are still alive and will stop trying to destroy the earth and will go away.
Kirk and Spock meet up with a 1980s lady whale scientist Dr. Gillian Taylor (Catherine Taylor who would later go on to play mother of a shit ton of kids on Seventh Heaven) and after ridiculous efforts, finally convince her that they are from the motherhumping future and that she should help them whale-nap the whales in residence at the whale museum she works at. To Kirk’s credit, he doesn’t pork her, which I want to say means Kirk has grown and matured as a character, having realized he doesn’t need to seek coitus with every female he meets but truthfully, it’s probably just because he never finds the time. The movie moves that fast. It is a mad dash to snag the jumbo sea mammals and get back to save the day, so there’s no time for fornication.
The rule about not interfering with the past to preserve the future is acknowledged by Bones and Scotty, but then pretty much universally thrown out the window by the whole crew. There are fun scenes where the future people are confused about life in the 1980s. In Star Trek’s future, Earthlings have evolved past needing money, they don’t swear unnecessarily (aside from Bones’ “Damn it, Jim!”) and Spock uses a Vulcan neck pinch to stop an obnoxious punk rocker from blasting his boom box on a public bus, thus fully demonstrating that the needs of the many bus riders to enjoy a ride in peace outweigh this mohawked dipstick’s need to crank up his tunes.
It’s well done. It is a lot of fun. Nary a second is wasted as it is quite fast paced, yet it still has beginning and ending scenes in the future that tie it all up in a nice bow. We never do learn who sent the whale probe and can only assume there are some highly evolved space whales out there keeping tabs on earth whales and are ready to declare intergalactic war if humans don’t start being nicer to our whale pals.
Sidenote: You’ll learn more about whales than you ever thought you could know, especially how the whaling industry devastated the whale population. Someone who wrote this movie really, really, really cared about whales because after you see it, you’ll almost want to rush out and donate to a whale preservation charity. I say almost because I didn’t because I am a cheap SOB. You totally can if you want to though.
Double sidenote: There is an eerily predictive scene that gets new meaning when you watch it today. It involves Scotty, who is disgusted when he has to use a primitive 1980s computer. He bemoans having to use such archaic tools as a keyboard and mouse and is surprised that the computer won’t talk back to him or obey his verbal commands. If only the Scotsman had visited today. He might gab with Siri or Alexa and have them get about half the commands right.
I can picture it now.
SCOTTY: “Alexa, put up the shields on the Entreprise.”
ALEXA: “Ordering you a burger with fries.”
SCOTTY: “No, we need to stop the Klingons!”
ALEXA: “Opening your account on Amazon.”
SCOTTY: “Alexa! Fire photon torpedos!”
ALEXA: “Ordering you a burrito. Do you want green sauce or red?”
Yeah, maybe Scotty was better off with a mouse and a keyboard.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I remember seeing this with the rents as a little kid like it was yesterday, and I’m pretty sure my recent viewing was only the second time I’d seen it. All in all, it has the kind of plot that most writers would be afraid to pitch, that would get most writers laughed out of the profession and though it is quite silly, it is done in such a way that it is a lot of fun. Even though the other films and shows have more serious plots with murderous alien fiends and destructive devices and intricate plots, this movie where Kirk tries to explain to a 1980s scientist over pizza how he is from the future and needs whales to save the day will likely remain one of the best films the franchise has to offer for years to come.